Pandemic wiped out many recovery resources for addicts; overdoses nearly doubled in EBR Parish

Updated: Jan. 4, 2021 at 7:16 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Overdoses in Baton Rouge nearly doubled in 2020. Doctors say they believe it is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office, 232 people died from accidental drug overdoses in 2020. That smashes the number of overdoses recorded in 2019.

In 2020, much of the help for people fighting addiction, like support groups, went away because of coronavirus restrictions.

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East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark says that left many people without a place to turn to when they wanted to get sober.

“People have certainly had issues with losing their jobs, al the stressors, even the stressors of things not being normal, and that includes people’s support structures or their ability to find help or be able to go to rehab,” said East Baton Rouge Coroner Beau Clark. “When that gets impacted people struggling with substance abuse problems have issues with getting help they need, and when they don’t get the help they need, obviously we know what the result is, it’s tragic.”

One of those people who struggled to get that help is Andrew Twohig. He was in recovery for several months following a lifelong fight with drugs and alcohol.

When his support groups went virtual, he no longer had the human connection he desperately needed to continue his recovery.

“The whole recovery community really had to struggle through 2020 because it pretty much put a stop to all the 12 step meetings for quite some time, and once the community was able to respond to that, they started some Zoom meetings and things like that but that’s just not the same,” Twohig said.

Twohig relapsed and found himself living on the streets before he finally checked himself into rehab.

He will not blame the pandemic for hitting rock bottom, taking complete responsibility for his actions, but he said it definitely played a role.

RELATED: Recovering addicts face particularly challenging circumstances during COVID-19 pandemic

“It was one of the elements that fell into place that made me more susceptible to falling back to that old way of thinking,” he said. “I’m one of those guys that has to go to meetings everyday if I want to stay sober, I need that much support.”

Clark said the key to keeping people like Twohig from becoming a statistic is keeping those support groups in place, while curtailing the prescribing of opioids.

“We’ve got to keep talking about it. We’ve got to educate the public, what’s going on and what their options are,” Clark said.

For Twohig, those groups are what is keeping him alive and not on the streets, helping him realize his life is worth more than his addiction.

“If we can reach a point personally where we actually value ourselves and learn to value ourselves and we see the self-worth in ourselves then we will no longer have that need for external validation, something external to change us because we will have changed ourselves,” Twohig said.

If you are struggling with addiction and need some help there are resources for you in the Baton Rouge area:

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